FINLAND Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has encouraged Tanzania to maximise its unique geographical location and reap the benefits of regional integration.
Mr Katainen said at the Uongozi Round Table discussions in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday that the country is geographically positioned in a unique position that should be utilized to tap into regional integration to the fullest.
He noted East Africa is one of the fastest growing economic areas in the world, with member countries that have a strong annual growth rates, averaging above 5 per cent over the past decade.
The Finish Premier arrived in the country yesterday morning to a short welcoming ceremony at the Eastern Gates of the State House in the company of his host, President Jakaya Kikwete, where he inspected a guard of honour before the two leaders went inside for a private conversation.
He said the current economic crisis should not prevent countries from seeing the benefits of integration, noting that Africa has already benefitted from integration in the areas of political integration, which has given more credibility to African countries in international forums.
Mr Katainen added that political integration brings stability and peace, with economic integration and liberation of trade inside Africa boosting economic growth and raise nations from poverty.
"Integration is often a challenging process. Giving up some political and economic sovereignty is sensitive and a balancing act between different opinions. However, the benefits of integration are indisputable. Through integration, we can achieve more than individual country could," he explained.
The Finnish leader added that trade and growth were potential factors that can change lives of many ordinary women, men and young people to be better and contribute to the economy and stability of developing countries.
"The challenge is how do we make economic growth inclusive and create employment for all the people. We must make sure that people belonging to the most vulnerable groups have fair and equitable access to the benefits of growth," he explained.
Mr Katainen said there is ample evidence that openness in trade is beneficial for economic growth in the long-run, adding that the best results of poverty reduction have been achieved by those countries that have embraced external trade and integrated into the global and regional economy.
The Minister of State in the President's Office (Special Duties), Prof Mark Mwandosya, who was representing Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, said Africa and Europe are reaping equal benefits from the cordial relations of the two continents.
He said Africa's growing market for goods and services opens up more opportunity for both Europe and Africa to trade, noting that the continent's current strong position had enabled it play a big part in influencing global change.
The minister observed that Africa was on the brink of transformation and could be a middle income continent in the next two decades. He noted that it was the responsibility of African leaders to create a positive environment for such potential prosperity.
Prof Mwandosya added that it is pertinent for African leaders to uphold good governance, peace and security and the rule of law
In his Keynote address, during the round table discussion organized by Uongozi Institute the Founder and Executive Chairman of Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS), Dr Nkosana Moyo, said African countries needed to manage their own resources and live within the envelop as defined by its own resources to be able to move forward.
He insisted that Africa should not feel ashamed of where the continent has come from, adding that the current government structures did not conform to Africa but to the Western world.
He said Africa confused westernisation with development, noting that development and modernisation were different from westernization.
"It was as if Africa went into a classroom to be taught how to build, and the teachers made a mistake of showing a building as an example and now the building has been replicated...we are building institutions that do not speak to the African people thereby excluding them in development," he explained.
He stressed that Western countries should give African countries space to make its own mistakes in order to move forward in the development process, adding that the western countries have not provided space for Africa to formulate her own thoughts and ideas, so she can move on to the next step.
The Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Lu Youging, urged the international community to invest more in Africa and open international markets for products from the continent to create more job opportunities and revenue from taxes, which would in turn boost the continent's economy.
Right after the round table discussion, whose theme was "Bridging Africa's Transformation Gap: What Africa and Europe need from each other", the Finnish Premier witnessed the signing of two Memorandums of Understanding in Forestry and Mineral sectors.